Tales from the Middle # 3. At least I think it's 3
For several years across the back of the 80s I played club cricket in Sarf Laanden for a team called Stanstead. It was named after that bit of the A205 South Circular that runs between Catford and Forest Hill called Stanstead Rd. Believe me, when the club was founded, it was all green fields and gambolling deer round that part and there wasn't a modified snub-nosed .38 to be had for love nor money. We, though, plied our trade at the Old Askeans sports ground in Shooters Hill. Followers of the oval ball will be familiar the name.
As is common with any established club it had a number of long-standing fixtures and one of these was against a team of old boys. A few years prior to my joining there had been something of a schism and several members had left under a cloud. Time had mellowed them and many had buried the hatchet. Bar one. We shall call him Dave (That wasn't his name, by the way. I'm not being mysterious or careful, I just can't remember it). Dave was, and let's not be shy here, a total arse. His mouth often entered (and was kicked out of) the room long before the physical presence arrived, and when it was afforded the luxury of an audience, it spouted the most ignorant and idiotic spew imaginable. His brother was OK and often continually apologising for him out of earshot.
Dave did not keep in touch with his old club but, we reasoned, would listen to rumour. We hatched a cunning plan. We had a new bowler, Simon. Or "Sack". I cannot explain the origin of his nickname as I'm sure there are ladies still reading. Suffice to say it originated in the dressing room and was a testament to the lad's suppleness. He was also an ex-submariner and presumably spent hours amusing himself. By himself. Sack had trialled for Hampshire in his youth and was an extremely good bowler, with a classical action reminiscent of Dennis Lillee. He wasn't nearly as fast though; not many were. Ralf the Mouf, our other opening bowler, (who had played with Graham Dilley in his youth and reckoned he was "just a yard slower" than the Kent and England slinger), was actually quicker and bowled a "heavy" ball. All wicketkeepers will understand what I mean. Dave though didn't need to know this and rumour and hearsay regarding Simon were duly propagated.
Come the day of the match at the luxuriously appointed Catford Cyphers ground in SE6, we were all well rehearsed and put our plan silkily into action. We batted first but I can't remember what we made. It was, to be honest, immaterial, although I do recall one of us getting a century. I haven't a clue what I got but I suspect it wasn't much as my rich veins of form were few and far between. Tea was taken between innings and at the resumption the old boys went into bat with Dave due in first wicket down. As befits a secret weapon, Simon was kept out of the attack but he didn't have long to wait. The first wicket soon fell and at the end of the over the skipper threw the ball to him and we sprang into action.
Sack took his marker and paced out three-quarters of the way to the boundary, considerably further than his normal 8 or ten paces. He dropped the marker, took a few more paces and charged in for a practice run-up, pulling away before the crease. Dave turned round to Bill, the wicket keeper, only to find Bill about 25 yards back. "Fuuuu..." To Bill's right were five slips, two gullies, a fly slip and a third man. There wasn't a single fielder in front of Dave apart from Simon. "Two legs" murmered Dave at umpire Ray, beads of sweat forming on his shiny brow.
Ray dropped his left arm, the signal for play to recommence. Sack began his run up, the fielders crouched and Dave banged the end of his bat limply into the blockhole. Sack leapt into his delivery stride and swung his arm over in a blur, the ball just visible in his hand. Dave prodded aimlessly forward and ten fielders plus Simon leapt into the air as Bill took the catch. Ray raised his finger and we all ran foward, the ball still in Bill's mitt, to congratulate Sack on his first ball wicket. Dave stood there, absolutely dumbfounded. "I never fackin' saw it. Never saw it. Faaaack me." He turned and trudged off while we stood as a group and watched, grinning. Halfway to the hutch, Bill called after him. "Dave. Neither did we." Dave turned to see Bill and Sack each holding a ball aloft and laughing. His face was priceless. "You caaaants."
(If anyone read this between 1pm and 8pm on Friday, it didn't make much sense. Apologies for that. Something to do with what the public computers decided to save and reject)